Court takes measures to safely keep cases moving as pandemic conditions evolve

Learn about the new and changing efforts needed from the bench and the bar to decrease the backlog at the Eighth Judicial District Court. Read this installment of “View from the Bench” written by Judge Linda Marie Bell.

Since March 13, 2020, when an Eighth Judicial District Court (EJDC) order halted jury trials and implemented telephonic hearings, the court has adapted swiftly to keep cases moving in a safe and effective manner. With safety protocols developed in consultation with health professionals and procedures in place, we were able to begin handling jury trials on a limited basis toward the end of 2020.

Despite significant effort from the court, the past six months conducting trials has failed to decrease our backlog. This is a matter of great concern to the Eighth Judicial District Court and the Supreme Court of Nevada. To address the backlog, joint Administrative Order 21-09 was issued. The Order is available on the court’s website clarkcountycourts.us. AO 21-09 reiterates several of our EDJC rules with the intent to keep cases moving forward. The situation on the ground, however, continues to evolve. The Omicron variant is spreading quickly, leading to staffing shortages. It is a reality that portends the need for constant re-evaluation as conditions change.

Administrative Order 22-02 limits trials to those scheduled to go for no more than a calendar week. The Order is to be in effect for 30 days. The court will implement the measures outlined in AO 21-09 and judges will be required to follow and enforce the EDJC rules for continuing trials, including making a finding of good cause for a continuance. Once a trial is set at calendar call, per the Order, any continuance requires a written motion and a finding by the judge of extraordinary circumstances. COVID infections support a finding of good cause. The court will be sensitive to people’s health related concerns and consider giving them the option to file affidavits under seal where appropriate.

A motion to continue must be supported by an affidavit, or if there is not sufficient time, oral sworn testimony from the lawyer. Also, if a witness is unavailable, EDCR 7.30(b) has specific requirements that must be imposed. Trials may not be vacated by stipulation, and a motion to withdraw may not be granted if it would delay trial. EDCR 2.69 requires lawyers to appear at calendar call ready to go with exhibits, jury instructions, proposed void dire questions, etc.

AO 21-09 creates a civil trial reassignment calendar. Civil judges will be setting trials that are ready to go – when they are ready to go. Any trials the judge cannot manage because of conflicts with other trials, will be reassigned. The court will have a calendar every Thursday to address any trials that need reassignment for the next week. Peremptory challenges are not permitted by rule; however, to address concerns that have previously made civil reassignments unsuccessful, we will try a “strike list” method at the assignment calendar.

Also, if the case has settled, the parties must provide a written stipulation or agree to enter the agreement in the minutes of the court. If the agreement is entered into the minutes, the judge will set a status check within 21 days to ensure the settlement documents are provided.

I understand that this will be a significant practice change for some, and I appreciate everyone’s understanding and adherence to these essential measures. I would like to thank the members of the Executive Committee for their hard work and assistance during this process.

Administrative Order AO 21-09 and all court administrative orders can be found on the District Court website at clarkcountycourts.us.

Mark you calendars!
Civil Bench-Bar Meeting – Feb. 8, 2022

The Eighth Judicial District Court Civil Bench-Bar Meeting will be held online via Zoom. Invited Speakers: Justice James W. Hardesty, Chief Judge Linda Bell. Topics: Administrative Orders 21-09 and 22-02. All lawyers who practice in Civil Departments of the Eighth Judicial District Court are welcome to attend.  For more info and to RSVP, contact EJDCBenchBar@gmail.com.

About the author
Judge Linda Marie Bell

Judge Linda Marie Bell is the chief judge for the Eighth Judicial District Court. She has been serving in department 7 since 2009, handling civil and criminal cases, managing Grand Juries and overseeing the criminal division specialty courts.

About this article: This article was originally published in the “Employment Law” issue of Communiqué, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association, (Feb. 2022). See https://clarkcountybar.org/about/member-benefits/communique-2022/communique-february-2022/.

© 2022 Clark County Bar Association (CCBA). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any portion of this issue is allowed without written permission from the publisher. Editorial policy available upon request.

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